An Interview With Nobel Economics Prize-Winner Michael Kremer

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Economics as a field it can have the reputation of being kind of abstract cerebral yes that's true if matty lots of CIGNA's you know complicated financial instruments ivory tower stuff Michael Creamer our newly minted Nobel laureate says he here's this from people all the time people have a view of economic says only about the stock market talks next. That's the question that you get when you sit makes people on airplanes there like is the stock market GonNa go up hopefully classic questions going to the I I also much place on that one now is a Nobel prize so you really want to know if he thinks. I got this doctor from a Nobel Prize winner and the response he might give to somebody who asks him for stomach that look development economics is something different branches mixed focuses on improving conditions in developing countries so Michael's research is looked at different ways to improve health care education agriculture social conditions all these different things in those developing countries Michael got started in this kind of economics when he was visiting a friend who was teaching in Kenya his friend was working for a nonprofit and had been put in charge of a bunch of local schools and they were trying to figure out how to best run these schools and where to invest their very limited resources we weren't sure uh what the best approach was they had several different ideas that they were interested in China and as we were talking I suggested that perhaps they could try some approaches in some schools and other approaches and other schools and they did that systematically they could learn what was what was working best and evaluate the impact of what they're doing much isn't Medical trial much as in a medical trial real world trials are used in many of the sciences but applying them in economics was groundbreaking in some of the most noted work of Michael Kramer and his colleagues they looked at where to best allocate resources impoverished schools in Kenya so for example would students benefit more from free textbooks or from free meals it turned out neither of those things actually made a huge impact for the students what did make a huge impact for the students another study uncovered a pretty unexpected answer to that hyphen free access to de worming medication. Hookworm whipper roundworm worms that actually used to be in the southern United States. take the medication to treat worms was quite cheap but it did still cost some money and there were a lot of parents who are still not getting it for their kids what made a huge difference was when kids were given free access to de worming medication Michael says the impact it had on their education was extraordinary we found that topic for much more like quitting school absence from school what by one quarter reflect when they had access to the medicine Michael and his colleagues followed the students for years all the way through school and into the workforce and they found that free access to de worming medication just kept paying off this was a while ago Alga young adults we see that they're actually earning more and consuming more and the girls are more likely to onto secondary school so huge impact relative to the really tiny costs lose medicines cost really pennies per does investing in De worming medication as it turned out had a much bigger impact on the educations professional lives of kids than textbooks or school meals and economic mixed figured that out the solution was not obvious it emerged after a series of rigorous experiments that were systematically trying different approaches until they found the most active efficient solution Michael and his colleagues presented that information to the Kenyan government you want to help kids and keep them in school put your money here in best in de worming medication and it will affect major change it will move the needle they were excited about it and they decided they wanted to launch an national program and then Indians state governments heard heard about it and then the national government of India introduced a similar program so now Aw Th Indian program is reaching more than one hundred million children every year and I think I remember reading that The program actually did a pain for itself through increased tax revenue because people did become more productive when they were healthier is that is that right that's exactly right recent follow up work we've looked at the economic impact of us now that students at the time of original de worming are now in the labor force and see the people are earning more Ah The free just do the calculations turns out of the extra tax revenue alone would have been more than enough to pay the cost of the program. It's estimated that the work of Michael Creamer in his fellow laureates this year has changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world and Michael Says he's very glad to see that a more hands on kind of economics is being acknowledged invalidated in such an important way we're trying to do work that is very rigorous that is using the Ah Tours of of economics but that is also engaged with practical problems it's easy to see the problems of global poverty and to think that there are intractable that we can't make a difference but actually there's been huge progress there will be more progress as economics is applied to different problems in the developing world he thinks he can help find simple practical solutions that can actually make a big difference. Michael says he is incredibly excited to see economics being used this way and of course peace excited about winning the Nobel yeah maybe we'll even figure out how to celebrate it properly congratulations thank you so much and I think you should upgrade to regular coke for at least a week paid lip balm yeah there you go there now we're talking we're talking

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